February 15, 2006:
One of the biggest uncovered stories of the war on terror, is the mountain of internal memos from Saddam Hussein?s regime. Not just the two million documents (some of which have already hit the media), but a large number of computer hard drives as well. This has been probably one of the most ignored aspects of the war in Iraq, with only some 50,000 documents translated (less than three percent of the total) out of this mountain of data.
Documents have many advantages in intelligence. One of the most important is as a way to double-check the information what comes from interrogations (prisoners have been known to try to mislead their captors - during the Vietnam War, at least one American POW named a Disney character as a superior officer). These documents can also provide intelligence on their own. Saddam's intelligence agency was, in many was, a lot like the KGB in having voluminous archives, and some of the documents released have been explosive. One, recovered by a reporter with the Toronto Star in April 2003, discussed bringing an envoy from Osama bin Laden to discuss the future of the relationship between al Qaeda and Saddam's regime. Other documents have revealed the extent to which Saddam's regime trained terrorists.
There is a new push to get more of these documents out. The chairman of the House Select Committee on Intelligence has requested forty of these documents. Some of the titles indicate that there could be explosive revelations in store. One such title indicated an al Qaeda presence in Salman Pak, a terrorist training camp which trained terrorists in hijacking airliners. Defectors reported that the method of operation used involves knives and bare hands, the same method used in the September 11, 2001, attacks. Other documents in the list include communications with the embassy in Malaysia, where an al-Qaeda summit occurred in January, 2000. The Iraqi connection is centered around Ahmed Hikmat Shakir, who escorted at least one of the 9/11 hijackers through Malaysian customs when he worked as a greeter - a job he got through the Iraqi embassy.
These documents have another advantage - they will be words from the regime itself, and will be harder to mischaracterize as fabricated intelligence. These will also leave a number of media outlets, activists, and politicians in a real bind - as other documents may point toward Saddam's weapons of mass destruction (at least document title suggests that Saddam's regime carried out deception operation regarding the WMD programs), and others may provide details into the setup of the insurgency. The truth is out there - in millions of documents and on hard drives. It just has to be accessed, translated, and released. - Harold C. Hutchison (firstname.lastname@example.org)